Worth Replacing: Papparadelle noodles

September 15, 2008

I know it seems a bit odd to be featuring a pantry item as part of my worth replacing series but you know, I do replace these wonderful egg-y noodles as soon as I place an empty package into the recycle box.

Although I only feast on them occasionally myself, my son Oliver eats this pasta as often as I’ll cook it. He loves papparadelle simply prepared with butter, salt and lots of cracked pepper; in homemade chicken broth studded with carrot coins and bits of celery; or – and this is when I always join him – under a cloak of my homemade Bolognese sauce.

Pasta was one of the 10 chapters in my last book Dana’s Top Ten Table, because it is, year-after-year, one of the 10 favourite things that research shows people choose to make for dinner. In fact, if I were to look back over the last 10 years, pasta would likely be in the top 5 (maybe even the top 3) every time. This popularity wasn’t always the case for pasta. In fact, until the 1960’s, pasta was lucky to play second fiddle to the long established Canadian concertmaster of meal time, the potato.

What changed? We did. Immigration brought people from all over to Canada and many of our newcomers were Italian born. In fact, until 1981, Italy was the #2 birthplace for new Canadians. Even now that immigration patterns have shifted, Italian remains the second most often spoken unofficial language in this country (Chinese is first). This influx brought with it many good cooks and offered all of us an opportunity to meet and fall in love with Italian foods including pasta, pizza and risotto: the holy trinity of Italian starch.

Now that I’ve turned your thoughts to Italian food, I hope you’ll jot over to Charmian Christie’s blog where she’ll be celebrating this much loved cuisine with recipes and words all week long. Today I believe she may even be posting my very popular Stromboli recipe; but, if you prefer to have papparadelle tonight, I offer here my Bolognese recipe as well.

Rich and Meaty Bolognese Sauce*

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour & 30 minutes

Authentic Bolognese sauce is a zesty, full-bodied meat and tomato concoction that is the backbone of Northern Italian home cooking. The secret ingredient to a true and satisfying Bolognese sauce is milk. Added in such a small amount that it is not perceptible as a flavouring ingredient, the milk mellows and helps to blend the stronger flavours such as white wine, garlic and tomatoes.

Another of the key ingredients in a successful Bolognese sauce is bacon. Added in a small amount, the bacon helps to deepen and extend the flavour of the veal (or beef) and adds richness that helps to emulsify the sauce.

Once you try this authentic Bolognese sauce recipe, tossing spaghetti with jarred pasta sauce will definitely feel like settling for a half measure. So, since you’ll want to use this sauce often, I’ve written it as a big batch and recommend that you freeze family meal size portions. Having this frozen asset on hand will make many weeknight crunches easier to endure and more delicious, too!

2 each peeled onions, carrots and celery stalks, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves
1/4 cup (50 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt
3/4 tsp (4 mL) pepper
1 tsp (5 mL) each dried basil, oregano and thyme leaves
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped bacon
1 1/2 lb (750 g) ground veal or beef
1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine
1/4 cup (50 mL) tomato paste
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) crushed or pureed tomatoes
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk

Place onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Place vegetables and oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Stir in salt, pepper, basil, oregano and thyme leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add bacon and veal. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Stir in wine, tomato paste, tomato puree and milk. Reduce heat to low and simmer, gently for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Makes about 8 cups.

Tip: Sauce may be made ahead. Cool, uncovered, before chilling, covered. Freeze sauce in batches of 2 cups (500 mL) each, enough to cover 8 cups of pasta.

*Recipe from Dana’s Top Ten Table: 200 Fresh Takes on Family-Favourite Meals. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Copyright (c) 2007 by Dana McCauley. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.